How to Cope When You Just Want to Run Away from Everything

Santa Rosa therapist and life coach Patty Bechtold explores how to cope when you just want to run away from everything

Updated on 2/29/24

Imagine this: You’re in the car, out on the open road, and suddenly you wonder what would happen if you just kept going. You feel a powerful urge to leave it all behind, because, well, life is complicated. And a part of you just wants to run away from everything.

Have you ever yearned to just run away from everything?

I have. It happened a few days ago, coming home from a weekend away. The sun was streaming through the redwood trees, dappling the pavement, and the gentle curve of the road carried me back to childhood.

Just then I remembered driving on a road much like this, my grandfather at the wheel. Feeling safe and secure in his presence.

And in that moment of memory, I just wanted to keep going.

Lately I’ve been hearing lots of stories about people wanting to run away from everything, escape, walk out.

Of course, you don’t have to be driving to feel the urge to flee. It can rise up anytime, particularly when you’re feeling burned out, overwhelmed, or depressed.

In fact, common wisdom would tell you that if you’re feeling the need to leave it all behind, it’s time to address the underlying problems, because running away probably won’t solve anything. And while I do generally agree with that, what if there’s more to it?

What if the desire to leave it all behind is also about seeking safety?

Just yesterday I was thinking about this.

When you take whatever personal issues you’re dealing with in your life, add in the ongoing and unrelenting problems the world is experiencing, and finally top it all off with whatever crises are happening in your local region, well then you’ve got the perfect recipe for wanting to escape and leave it all behind.

And suddenly the yearning to just run away from everything makes so much sense.

Something important happens when we question what it means to want to run away from it all.

Maybe it’s not just about escape or denial.

Maybe it’s not just about an overload of personal problems and challenging life circumstances.

Perhaps it’s also about your fundamental human need to feel protected, safe, whole, and anchored.

The good news is there are many ways to give that to yourself without running away from everything. Those I’m featuring below are helping me most right now.

Seven ways to come back to yourself: safe, whole and nurtured

1. Walk

Or maybe I should say meander, stroll, wander. Because this isn’t about walking fast. In fact, it’s the opposite: finding a place in nature where you can do some restorative walking. (Yes, that’s actually a thing.)

Here in California I’m lucky to be close to some great walking areas. And the day after I had that urge to keep driving and just run away from everything, I took myself to the beach.

Just 30 minutes spent wandering along the trails, looking down at the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean, brought me back to center.

2. Read less

Did you know that we average three to four hours a day on our phones, and a total of 11 hours a day in front of screens? We’re taking in so much information that we lose track of our own wisdom. Recently I heard it described as “the crushing pressure to know everything instantly.”

I’m aware of how very difficult it is these days to release ourselves from the grip of the attention economy. However, when you deliberately take action to limit your time on all those screens, you make space for your wisdom to reemerge.

3. Read more

There’s something magical about losing yourself in a story, a real book, the product of an author’s imagination. Story softens you up, gives you air to breathe below the surface.

Stories comfort and guide you back to your own inspiration and wisdom. Personally, I love reading (or listening to) familiar children’s books when I’m feeling down. Lately, my favorite children’s book is The Secret Garden. (And there’s a movie too!)

4. Look

Images have the power to soothe and bring you back to yourself too.

It is possible to create safety for yourself simply by tearing out and cutting out magazine images that reflect what you dream of running away to (or running toward).

If you don’t have any actual magazines you can find images online and print them out. Or begin collecting images that you know are soothing in some way.

Having something tangible to hold and look at enhances the experience. So if you have the time or energy to make a collage with them, you may find the process even more therapeutic.

5. Write

Call up a memory of a time when you felt safe, whole and protected. Then write about it, capturing as many of the sensory details as you can

6. Sleep

A recent article in National Geographic had this to say about sleep:

A full night’s sleep now feels as rare and old fashioned as a handwritten letter.

The author makes the case that we have, sadly, developed an adversarial relationship with sleep. No wonder we want to run away. But sleep is your friend, not your enemy. And if sleep seems elusive, simply resting quietly is an alternative option.

7. Connect

Did you know that almost half of the brain’s cerebral cortex is devoted to visual input? That’s the part of the brain where social cues are processed.

So basically that means if we’re not connecting in real space and time, our brains may be hungry for face time.

Human connection can help you feel safe, whole, and nurtured like nothing else. And while it’s lovely to be able to connect with those who care about you, it’s not always possible. But even connecting briefly with other humans can make a difference.

Of course, none of these actions are necessarily easy when you’re in the throes of wanting to run away.

Still, I believe it’s tremendously important to name them as possibilities.

Naming things that are within your reach, even if it’s only in a small way, can be the beginning of hope and a return to your wise self.

So please remember this too: You are wise and you already know so much about how to live your life.

If you feel “burnout” setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself.
-Dalai Lama

Want support with your own journey to find your way back to your wise self?

If you’d like help knowing yourself better and feeling freer to be who you truly are, my free course — Finding Yourself Again — is a good place to start.

My course can help you gain insight on the critical voices and beliefs within you and begin to transform them with creative and imaginative approaches. It’s based on the same practices that have helped my clients reclaim what’s missing and move toward what matters.

You can learn more about this free course here. And if you have any questions, do get in touch.


Patty Bechtold

Patty Bechtold

Welcome. I'm a Santa Rosa therapist and life coach, and I help women who feel like something’s missing in their lives or themselves. I specialize in self-esteem, anxiety, depression, grief, life transition, and women's groups. On this blog I write about different approaches to help you find your way back to your deepest wisdom. Thank you for being here.